Anniversary eating

Celebrating 10 years with Mr T on Anzac Day this week, we decide that instead of blowing hundreds of dollars on fine dining (we’ll save that for a certain person’s 40th later this year!) we’ll spend the day cycling to the newly refurbished MCA and visit various food outlets along the way. We start at Double Roasters, a ridiculously popular cafe, given how recently it opened, on Victoria Road, Marrickville, a mere two minutes cycle ride from our house. While we peruse the menu, Mr T has a Belgian hot chocolate, made with real dark chocolate, which is the only way to make it as far as he’s concerned. I have a latte which is creamy and smooth, made from beans that they roast on the premises.

Latte

Latte, Double Roasters

To eat I choose ‘baked eggs’ with homemade baked beans, prosciutto and spinach which comes in a rustic earthenware dish. It’s not really baked eggs as I’ve had it before since they are in fact poached and come sitting atop the sea of beans. However, I’m not complaining because they’re perfectly cooked and their deep yellow insides ooze out when I stab them with my knife. The beans are sweet, herby and richly tomatoey and the prosciutto lends a lovely saltiness to the whole combo. My only complaint is that there’s not enough of the toasted roll to mop it all up and the spinach is a bit token in quantity.

Eggs, baked beans, prosciutto & spinach

Eggs, baked beans, prosciutto & spinach, Double Roasters

Mr T has the Croque Monsieur which is two very thick slices of spongy white bread sandwiched with good quality ham and Gruyère cheese, topped with plenty of Gruyère cheese sauce browned under the grill – delicious!

Croque Monsieur

Croque Monsieur, Double Roasters

Feeling guilty at not going to our favourite Marrickville cafe, Mr T persuades me that we should also pop in to Bourke Street Bakery, just around the corner, so they don’t feel left out. We share two delectable tarts with perfect pastry – rhubarb and almond, and strawberry crème brulée.

Rhubarb and almond tart

Rhubarb and almond tart, Bourke Street Bakery

Strawberry creme brulee tart

Strawberry crème brulée tart, Bourke Street Bakery

Suitably replete, we cycle on our way to The Rocks to visit the MCA, and afterwards, in need of a sundowner, we head to the new Sydney Theatre Company bar, The Bar at the End of the Wharf. I like the rustic beach-house feel of the decor but I’m sorry to say that the barman, while friendly and willing, is not very capable when it comes to my order of a Manhattan and a mocktail. Nonetheless, we enjoy ourselves playing some table tennis on one of the covered outdoor deck areas.

Now dark, we make our way over to Darlinghurst to try a new place for dinner that I’ve read good things about – Buffalo Dining Club. We sit upstairs in a cosy space that fits only five small tables and Peter, one of the three owners, looks after us magnificently. He brings me a festive glass of Perrier Jouët in a beautiful matching glass and tells us about the menu. This is a buffalo mozzarella bar, a craze started in Rome in 2004. The mozza is the real deal, flown in three times a week direct from Naples, and the rest of the menu is all about what complements this delicate, milky, pillowy cheese. A globe of mozzarella comes with two side dishes but we can’t choose just two so we get four – beautiful chargrilled baby aubergines, mildly spicy braised lentils, crisp garlicky broccolini and tart white anchovies. Also accompanying the mozzarella are bowls of thinly sliced, firm, nutty bread and various types of crunchy, savoury biscuit. To complete the picture we order 60g of San Daniele prosciutto, so moist and wafer thin that it pulls apart a bit like fairy floss. The whole experience is quite heavenly – the quality of the produce and the combination of flavours are a delight. For lubrication, when the bubbles are gone, I sip a delicious, well-chilled glass of Howard Park SB from Margaret River.

Buffalo mozzarella, prosciutto and side dishes

Buffalo mozzarella, prosciutto and side dishes, Buffalo Dining Club

(Disclaimer: Mozzarella may appear smaller here than actual size because we had started to eat it!)

We had planned to follow up with the buffalo ricotta gnocchi with tomato sugo but decide a modicum of restraint is called for, especially given the hills we have to cycle up to get home! But I console myself that this is definitely not the last time we’ll be coming here.

Double Roasters
199 Victoria Road, Marrickville

Bourke Street Bakery
2 Mitchell Street, Marrickville

Buffalo Dining Club
116 Surrey Street, Darlinghurst

All visited 25 April 2012

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Porteno, Surry Hills

Three visits to Porteño over the last couple of years have earned it a place in my top favourites list in Sydney. I constantly rave about it to anyone with an interest in food and demand that those who haven’t experienced it must go! But I always follow up my recommendation with specific instructions: thou shalt arrive at 6pm when it opens (don’t be intimated by the long queues outside), speak to the sparklingly efficient 50s-coiffed gal in the black-and-white-tiled entrance hall to put your name on the list for a table, sashay up the narrow stair case to another prettily 50s-clad young lady who will also take your name and seat you in the fabulous Gardels Bar for a drink and possibly a little morsel to whet the appetite. This is my preferred ritual, anyway. I love to soak up the luxurious dark-wooded, bovine-skinned atmosphere of Gardels with a tequila-based cocktail and some delicious ceviche croquettes or pulled pork sliders. Alternatively sit at the fabulous studded leather bar and watch your cocktail being made – here are masters at work. Feel transported to another era with rockabilly tunes and glimpses of the Elvis-quiffed, tattoo-armed chefs dashing through.

When your table is ready (which can take a while on busier nights) you’ll be escorted downstairs into a cavernous room with a central atrium and cozier spaces to the sides. The service here is impeccable and I love calling the sommelier over to impart his wisdom on the largely Argentinean wine list. The uninitiated are given an explanation of the style of dining – wood-fired meat dishes feed 2-3 people so order according to the size of your party, and accompany with some sides. We have tried both the 8 hour lamb which falls off the bone, and the pork which comes with copious quantities of the best crackling I think I’ve ever had. Favourite sides include shaved fennel, apricot and olive salad, and the brussel sprouts which are crisp-fried with lentils and mint, a very far cry from my childhood memories of this vegetable. All the sides have a zingy acidity which perfectly balances the richness of the meats. If you’re not squeamish you must also try the morcilla, or blood sausage, which comes with tender roasted capsicum. On our most recent visit I just about had room to squeeze in the South American style pavlova for dessert. Topped with jagged peaks of honeycomb meringue, this is an impressively large stack of sponge layers sandwiched with generous amounts of dulce de leche, custard and roasted peanuts. Dainty it ain’t but it sure is yummy.

South Americal style pavlova

South Americal style pavlova, Porteno

At around $70 per head all in, this is not a cheap night out but neither is it outrageously expensive. For me it works because it’s the full package – delicious food prepared with passion, service that runs like a well-oiled machine, and an atmosphere equally beguiling for a romantic dinner ‘a deux’ or a larger celebration with friends. Ariba Porteno!

(More photos to come).

Porteño
358 Cleveland Street, Surry Hills
Last visited 30 March 2012

Let’s Eat Thai, Marrickville

Given the gloom and the rain we had on Tuesday, we realise that eating near the water is not going to be the glorious experience we’d envisaged. We therefore opt instead to take our English house-guest, Mark (Mr T’s first cousin once removed), to our favourite local – Let’s Eat Thai on Illawarra Road in Marrickville. This place serves up some of the best Thai food we’ve eaten in Sydney and it’s incredibly reasonably priced – we never seem to be able to spend more than about $25 per head. Its heritage is assured – the chefs here are veterans of Spice I Am in Surry Hills, our other favourite Thai restaurant in Sydney!

When we first discovered this place, the odd one out in an otherwise Vietnamese-dominated restaurant scene, we became instantly addicted to the pad prik king with crispy pork, and have to order it every time we come here. And this occasion is no exception. The pile of chunky pork cubes are decadently fatty and slathered in the most delicious sweet, sticky curry paste, and topped with finely sliced kaffir lime leaves and red chilli.

Pad prik king with crispy pork, Let's Eat Thai

At Mark’s request we order fried rice, which we normally wouldn’t bother with, but it makes a nice change, filled generously with pieces of chicken and crowned with chunky slices of cucumber and lime wedges to squeeze over. We also choose a chu chee curry which has a thicker sauce than the usual green and red curries, and is deliciously creamy and tasty. We add to that my perennial favourite, a green papaya salad (or ‘tom sum’), crunchy, sour and chilli hot with little nuggets of dried shrimp, roasted peanuts, cheery tomatoes and raw snake beans.

Green papaya salad

Green papaya salad, Let's Eat Thai

Other favourite dishes we’ve ordered on previous visits to Let’s Eat Thai include crispy fish salad, a potent concoction of crunchy fried anchovies, red onion, chilli, shallots, mint and coriander. This full-on flavour punch is not for the faint of palate, but we love it. It seems to fit in the northern Thai category of dish which is typically very salty and sour. Expect to work up a sweat! The other is whole deep-fried snapper with mango salad. Underneath the huge pile of fresh, colourful salad, the fish is beautifully pre-portioned into crispy parcels of goodness – so there’s no messaging about with bones!

Snapper with mango salad

Whole deep-fried snapper with mango salad, Let's Eat Thai

Let’s Eat Thai
353 Illawarra Road, Marrickville
Last visited 17 April 2012

Chicken laksa

Ann at work mail ordered 12 jars of laksa paste this week from The Malaya on King Street Wharf (which I’ve yet to visit but have heard marvelous things about) and she was happy to sell me one, so tonight I try it out for Mr T and me. Half a jar of paste stirred with the corresponding quantity of chicken stock given in the recipe on the side of the jar doesn’t produce enough liquid for the chicken and vermicelli to be submerged in, so I double it and make the full ‘serves 4’ amount. I add lots of brocoli, carrots and corn, expertly chopped by Mr T. The recipe calls for milk rather than coconut milk, which surprises us. A couple of minutes before the end I add a good handful of bean sprouts. It’s ready in no time at all and soon heaped and ladelled into hot bowls with corriander generously sprinkled on top.

Chicken laksa

Chicken laksa, chez Mr & Mrs T

It’s very tasty indeed but we decide it needs just a bit of acidity and a squeeze of lime juice does just the trick. We could have pigged out and finished the lot but opt instead to put some in the fridge for lunch tomorrow.

Small Bar, Crows Next

It’s Friday night and the friends we were going to have dinner with at The Sultan’s Table in Enmore have taken a last minute break from Sydney with their boys so we are at a loose end. Not for long – Karl calls Mr T. It’s cousin Deb’s birthday and they’ve decided to go out for drinks (“and food too?” I hopefully ask Mr T) in their home suburb of Crows Nest, and would be delighted if we would care to join them. And so we do, in spite of my protestations about going “all the way over the harbour”.

We meet them in Small Bar on Willoughby Road. As we enter the long, narrow room I think “Oh God, it’s one of those terribly noisy places”, and it is, but I quickly get used to it. After buying drinks (a lovely, reasonably-priced Marlborough SB pour moi) we study the menu and deliberate which of the share plates to choose. We settle on some pulled pork mini burgers with hoisin sauce and cucumber, an antipasto platter, chips, porcini arancini balls and lamb kofte.

The pork in its squishy buns is tasty but could do with a good deal more hoisin sauce. The antipasto comes prettily displayed on a rustic wooden board – good salami and proscuito, slices of pillowy boconcini, small shiny black olives and colourful marinated vegetables with slices of crunchy baguette. The chips come in cones of brown paper and are some of the best we’ve had in ages – really golden and crunchy with plenty of salt and also dried herbs which is a nice touch. The arancini balls are beautifully creamy inside their crispy shells. And the lamb kofte are juicy with plenty of tzatziki to dunk them in. We decide we haven’t had quite enough so we order two more lots of chips along with fried chicken wings that come with a little bath of soy sauce, and small crumbed tender calamari rings with mayonaise.

Sadly, so new is my blog that I forget to take photos until right near the end when we’ve only a few dishes left, and half eaten ones at that. I also forget to take a photo of the lovely beer garden at the rear with its thatched roof interlaced with vine and festooned with fairy lights. But so that I can practise inserting photos, here, for what they’re worth, they are:

Salted herby chips

Salted herby chips, Small Bar

Chicken wings & calamari

Chicken wings & calamari, Small Bar

Small Bar
Willoughby Road, Crows Nest
Visited 13 April 2012

Welcome to Oysters & Oxtail!

After 10 years of living in Sydney (and nearly *cough*ty years of food obsession) I’ve decided it’s high time I started a food blog. It’ll be a collection of ramblings on great restaurant and cafe experiences, visits to fabulous food shops and farmers’ markets, plus my own adventures in the kitchen at home.

Let the feasting begin!